Not sweet for the suites

Where Newlands, the Wanderers and Kingsmead have already been, the Outsurance Oval is about to tread. And the boykjies in the Free State are not happy about it.

Capetonian suite-holders were up in arms but, hey, the mountain was still there and nobody was taking their ocean away, so enough of them accepted the offer of a free seat in the stands and some sandwiches in a tent next door to the stadium.

The IPL and the very, very important people who run it (and their very important guests) require that suite-holders at all eight venues vacate the premises for which they have leases and move out for the duration of time that the tournament is in their region.

Not everyone at Newlands complied – in fact, a couple even had padlocks installed on the door of their suite to keep people out – but enough complied to keep the IPL satisfied.

Suite-holders in Johannesburg, some of whom had been in residence for over a decade and held leases for a further 10 years, were similarly appalled that they should be expected to move out. But Jo’burgers being Jo’burgers, they reached a tense agreement which involved another compromise similar to the shabby deal accepted by the Capetonians.

Kingsmead has also been forced to jeopardise relations with long-standing supporters in order to accommodate the IPL. Although Durban’s Indian population has, indeed, been more receptive than other cities, don’t underestimate the level of dissatisfaction amongst Indian Durbanites.

In just a couple of days, however, the circus moves to Bloemfontein and indications are that mutiny is in the air. There aren’t as many suites at the Outsurance Oval, of course, which means the IPL wants them all.

The problem for the suite-holdres, of course, is that unlike their counterparts in the big cities they don’t get to see much ‘international’ cricket. In fact, they saw no international cricket this year (with respect to Bangladesh who collapsed pitifully in a ‘Test’ match in November last year.)

Anyway, here’s an example of the correspondence currently taking place: First, the rather ‘difficult’ letter which poor Eagles chief executive Johan van Heerden was forced to send out to his patrons:

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“In all our negotiations with the IPL, Free State Cricket Union has ensured that the interests of our suite holders are paramount. From the IPL side, they have insisted that, as a non negotiable requirement for the hosting of the 2 matches in Bloemfontein, they require access to all our Main Stand suites.

We are therefore asking all our suite holders to forego their rights to the suites for the duration of the IPL tournament in exchange for the following:

1.         An allocation of an equivalent number of seats on a block basis in the Western stand for each match of the IPL tournament at no cost at all;

2.         Access to a hospitality tent close to the ground at which food and beverages will be provided, once again at no cost to the suite holder.

The tournament therefore, will come to you at no cost.

We acknowledge that we are asking you to forego an opportunity to host your clients, friends and colleagues in your suite. We trust that you will appreciate the reasons behind this request. To put it bluntly: if we are unable to deliver our suites to the IPL, Bloemfontein and cricket in the Central region will be the ultimate loser.

If possible, please remove all cutlery and crockery and valuables out of your suite and deliver the suite keys before Tuesday , 5 MAY 2009.”

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At no cost, eh? Well, that wasn’t the way it was seen by one unhappy client. Here is the response of Darius Steyn, Principal Dealer at the Lindsay Saker Volkswagen dealership in Bloemfontein. They have a corporate suite and pay for boundary advertising boards. The original was written in Afrikaans so please forgive my translation.

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1.  Since becoming associated with the Freestate Cricket, we have not had an opportunity to make use of our suite during an international match. Now that we can get a chance, you expect us to give up that privilege

2.  If we wanted normal tickets for events, we would not have signed a contract for the suite.

3.  Further more, I declare that the contract between Free State Cricket and Lindsay Saker be declared null and void due to changes in the conditions. And I suggest a meeting as soon as possible to discuss a new contract.

4.  I also confirm that we have not accepted the alternative offer and therefore will not be making use of it.

5.  We undertake to remove all assets and goods of Lindsay Saker as quickly as possible, including all advertising boards. We shall also not be returning to the stadium.

6.  I trust that you see my situation and understand it.

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I understand that Lindsay Saker aren’t the only ones prepared to withdraw their support. It’s the last thing Free State cricket need or can afford.

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